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The Nose

Suit Yourself

Posted 12/18/2002

Anton Keating, the feisty former candidate for state's attorney who cusses like a sailor but still seems a gentleman because of his British accent and excellent posture, has never been a shrinking violet. No surprise, then, that Keating has been spending time since his third-place showing in September's Democratic primary reviving a Baltimore tradition: the taxpayer lawsuit, made famous in the 1960s by the late Hyman Pressman, before he settled into his long career as city comptroller. Early in his days as the city's "watchdog," Pressman made a name for himself by filing lawsuits on behalf of one taxpayer or another, alleging various misdeeds and malfeasance by city agencies. No one the Nose consulted could remember whether Pressman actually won any of the suits, but he sure had fun trying--and brought attention to public problems while he was at it.

So now Keating's stepping into the role. His girlfriend and neighbor, Darcy Massof, is the plaintiff in a suit filed earlier this month alleging wrongful acts by the city in connection with a lease of the former Fish Market, a city property that is now occupied by the Port Discovery children's museum. The problem, Keating says, is the $75,000-a-year sublease of museum space to the city school system, which has located a special high school there that focuses on finance, tourism, and technology.

"It's the most absurd place to put a high school, down there near hookers and gamblers," Keating says, referring with righteous indignation to the school's proximity to The Block--where, indeed, hookers and gamblers have been known to hang out. "You got to bus all the kids in, and what are you going to do for their extracurriculars?" he asks, leaving the question open for speculation.

"So, being bored," he laughingly explains, "Darcy and I filed a lawsuit" to put a stop to it. The two hang their argument on the assertion that the museum is barred from subleasing the property until it receives formal permission from the city's Board of Estimates.

"I'm joining forces with [city comptroller] Joan Pratt for the first time over this," Keating says, explaining that Pratt also wants board oversight of the sublease arrangement. Pratt is expected to challenge Martin O'Malley for mayor in 2004. If she runs, Keating may have an eye for her job--thus further following Pressman's tradition. With the same drive, the same ego, and the same knack for public relations as Pressman, Keating seems an appropriate candidate to fill those long-neglected shoes.

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